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Stunning echo: Nasa unveils composite image of 800-year-old supernova remnant


NEW DELHI: In a groundbreaking revelation, Nasa has presented a composite image showcasing the remnants of a supernova explosion that lit up the night sky in 1181 AD. Visible for 185 days, this celestial event left behind a nebula known as Pa 30 in the constellation Cassiopeia, challenging scientists for centuries to uncover its secrets.
The quest for clues
Historical accounts describe the supernova as a temporary star, rivalling the brightness of Saturn, yet its remnant eluded identification until recently.Initially thought to be associated with the pulsar 3C 58, it was the discovery of Pa 30 that directed astronomers to the true aftermath of the explosion. Combining data across the electromagnetic spectrum, including X-ray observations from ESA’s XMM-Newton and Nasa’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, with infrared light captured by Nasa’s Wide-field Infrared Space Explorer, researchers have pieced together a stunning image of the remnant.
A spectacular sight
This composite image, enhanced by the heated sulfur’s radial structure glowing in visible light from the MDM Observatory in Arizona and background stars captured by Pan-STARRS in Hawaii, offers a vibrant view into the past. At the heart of this cosmic spectacle lies a ‘zombie’ star, a white dwarf resulting from the merger of two other dwarfs, propelling stellar winds at incredible speeds. This discovery sheds light on the rare sub-luminous Type Iax supernovae, typically leaving no remnant behind.
The significance of the discovery
Beyond its breathtaking beauty, the Pa 30 nebula and its central white dwarf star offer astronomers a unique laboratory for studying the mechanics of thermonuclear explosions in the cosmos. The remnant’s study provides insights into the evolution of stars, the dynamics of supernova explosions, and the intricate tapestry of our galaxy’s history.
Managed by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center, this research underscores the ongoing mission to unravel the mysteries of the universe. As one of the hottest stars in the Milky Way, the central star of Pa 30 continues to intrigue scientists with its extraordinary characteristics and the spectacular nebula it illuminates.
A glimpse into ancient skies
The latest findings from Nasa’s Chandra X-ray Observatory not only offer a visual feast but also an invaluable glimpse into the cosmic events that shape our universe. As we continue to explore the vast expanse of space, discoveries like the remnant of the 1181 supernova remind us of the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the cosmos.

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